Monday, September 12, 2011

punkrock sparrow.

Listening To: Shadowfeet by Brooke Fraser
Current Favorite Text Message in my Inbox: "I'm sitting in a Zaxby's near Athens and the pictures on the wall are crooked. Intentionally." - The Rogue Accountant, who thrives on order (Thank you, Zaxbys. I applaud your efforts!) 

It is 2AM here in the hills and there's some feisty punk-cricket up against my window singing his sweet little heart out. I'm about to have a showdown with the cricket. Here's the backstory: Fall has slowly been making its way back into my city. Finally. Thank goodness. The sky has been swarming with silver rainclouds and the air is getting prickly again. It is almost sweater weather. Boot weather. Coffee drinking weather (it is always coffee drinking weather ... but I'm convinced coffee tastes better in the Fall). The leaves are looking rusty around the edges. These are all signs of Autumn.
And yet, apparently, nobody has mentioned this to the punk-cricket.

The crickets around my house usually go on vacation during the fall and winter. But this beast is determined to keep me awake. I imagine him with a tiny striped scarf around his neck, shivering, rubbing his spindly legs together for warmth. He could take a break. I would not object if he did. But the cricket won't have it. He keeps on singing.

You remember when I told you that I get crazy-disoriented when I first wake up? Then it won't come as a shock to you that, sometimes, I wake up and my friend the punk-cricket sounds way louder than he actually is. Like, I startle awake and think, "Gah! The house is on fire!" But then I realize that it's not a a smoke detector that I hear; it's just that dang cricket.

Sometimes Biscuit points her nose toward the window and growls at the cricket. And I wake up like, "Gah! There's a lion in my bed." And then I realize it's just my dog that's growling.

I say something like, "I know! Tha-shhh that pun-kwicket!"

And then Biscuit huffs at me like, I can't understand you when you're wearing you mouthguard. So I take the mouthguard out to repeat myself. But then Biscuit's all Wah-Hoo, Snack time! And she lunges for it.

Anyway. I'm convinced the punk-cricket was referred.

Because I think the woodland creatures are conspiring against me. 

Now, before you click away from my blog, know that I do realize that's the sort of sentence that could signify instability. I promise I'm only crazy in a fun way. *twitches*

I think the cricket came because of the midnight bird. All summer long, usually at 12:01AM on the dot, a bird right outside my window would start singing. And it was never some sweet, airy, lullaby.  That bird could seriously belt out a party tune. Bird karaoke. "Ice Ice Baby"... bird-style.

The birdsong always woke me up but, usually, I didn't mind so much. Once I realized it was just a bird, not a car alarm, I kind of liked listening to the happy-chirpy-party going on outside. I imagine the other birds in the trees looking down at my midnight bird like, "Loser. Shut it." But my rebel bird carried on with its chirpy dirge. After about ten minutes, or sixty, the bird would hush and I would fall asleep again.

One night, the midnight bird woke me up and, when I opened my eyes, I realized my room was still-bright; moonlight poured pale and pretty through the window, pressing tree shadows against my walls. My sheets were cool and my pillow was soft. My dog was curled up so close beside me that I could feel her little heartbeat against my ankle. And the midnight bird was singing to me. The midnight bird sang a sunrise song in the middle of the night. By all standards, it was a very ordinary moment, but, to me, it felt a little bit magical. And it felt a-whole-lotta peaceful. I was awfully grateful the midnight bird woke me up to see it.

So I guess what I'm saying is ... I kind of like the midnight bird. And I also kind of like the punk-cricket, by default, because he seems to have taken over the new night shift while the midnight bird goes on tour.

I like them because I think it takes guts to stand up, by yourself, and sing.

I think it takes courage raise a ruckus. A pretty ruckus.

I think it takes some serious nerve to love what you do so much that you holler about it. It takes some gumption to roll back your shoulders and speak up.

Screaming, and saying nothing, both require very little effort.

Singing is different. 

And one night when the midnight bird woke me with it's party-song, I started thinking about how gutsy a person (or critter) has to be to sing at midnight, when the world gets so dark and weird and full of unknowns.

I think about midnight songs when I think about folks I love who are dealing with serious health issues - chemo and chronic headaches and back pain and bone problems and all manner of suffering; serious illnesses that leaves them down for weeks and months.

I think about midnight songs when I think about friends who are grieving or divorcing or coming up for air after a long, dark, season of depression or addiction, a season that may have lasted for months or may have lasted for years. (That takes remarkable courage, to sing out for help.)

I think of midnight songs when I've messed up. When I think, even though I know that this isn't true ... what if God loves me less for this? What if people knew this about me? I'm an adult; I should have known better by now.

I should know what to do with my life by now.

I should know how to make this all work by now.

I'm not trying to be melodramatic or deep. I just think it's darn scary when the world is so quiet and dark that all you can hear is the sound of your own frantic heart pounding against your ribs.

I'm bowled over by people who keep singing, even when the story goes spinny and foggy and dark. I'm not impressed by Pollyanna-fake optimism. I'm not impressed by the person who, when you lose someone you love, walks up to you and pats your shoulder and says, "They're in a better place." Duh. As if that's supposed to fill back up the missing piece in your heart. I'm not talking about religious platitudes up in here. I'm thinking about hope. Hope as a whisper. Hope as a rasp. Hope that starts as a waver but grows into an anthem. People who choose to keep looking for the good in the world, even when their world is certifiably crapped-up ... they catch my eye. Their midnight songs do more than help me tough out the night. They remind me that the sun is on its way back up.

Lately I've been thinking about a line in a poem by Dylan Thomas:

I sang in my chains like the sea.

I'm absolutely obsessed with that line. I've been writing it on receipts and in journals and in the dust of my furniture. I'm so taken with those words. They make so much sense to me.

Because I don't know that the choice is always "sink or swim." Not always.

Instead, I think there are very many days when grief, or illness, or pain, or rejection, or fear batter so hard against our scuffed-up hearts that the only thing we can manage to do is not sink. To barely, barely keep our faces above water. Sink or swim is not always an option.

But I do think there's always a choice for me to sink or sing. And sometimes, it is option A that I choose. I can think an endless string of days that I've let the sea crush me flat.

But somedays, there's a rocksong caught up in me that even the dark can't snuff it out.

Somedays, I remember this day is only one little page in a much bigger (much better) story.

Somedays, I look people in the eye when I talk to them. I fight losing battles even when I know I'll lose (especially then). I pray until I'm breathless. I question out loud. I claim the Truth out loud.

Some days, I remember the sun is rising soon.

Some days, I remember this: that no eye has seen, and no ear has heard what God has in store for those who love him. I remember that He calls me beautiful and forgiven and free. And that He works all things out for my good. And that He came so I could live and live abundantly. I remember that He cares for the sparrows and the wildflowers and so of course He cares for me; even when I'm wild, and even when I'm flighty. I remember that He loves me with an everlasting love that is unchanging and unconditional. Nothing can come between us.

"In this world you'll have trouble," He says. "But take heart. I've overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Some days, I press those truths against my heart and look my fears in the face. I don't run away. I don't back down. I do not sink.

Some days, when the waves come crashing, a girl's just gotta roar.

Hang in there beauties (& beastlies). You are loved more than you know. 


  1. That was a seriously beautiful post! I know what you mean about "singing your midnight song." Its hard to go through something traumatic and still be able to find the hope in it. I went through something like that recently. Its hard to keep finding the hope, peace, love, and God when you are facing a nightmare. (Your mention of bone problems hit home because I have one. I have always struggled with finding the hope in it.It stinks but I refuse to let it define me completely.) But I think that that is what my recent midnight song taught me the most. Even when I am scared, there is still hope, God is still here in this moment with me.

    Thank you for writing a post that sums up how I feel so wonderfully!

  2. Natalie,
    Thank you very much for writing this post. It really spoke to me this morning. I have been having an unusual start to my school year and I haven't felt quite myself at times. There are plenty of things I could blame, but what would that accomplish. Thank you for the reminder to "pray until I'm breathless."

    So thank you for the truth you have spoken through this post.

    May God bless you this week!

  3. Thanks for this :) It is definitely applicable to where I am right now. (Also, "Shadowfeet" is one of my favorite songs ever. It has been a huge encouragement for me sooo many times!)

  4. Natalie, I loved this post. It's so relevent to what I've been going through. I've been dealing with a chronic illness, and most recently an undiagnosed illness. As the night comes, I will lay in my bed and sing myself to sleep. Singing at the midnight hour, I plead to God and pray and sing those songs in my heart. This post was just so encouraging, and it couldn't have come at a better time for me, as I'm singing my own midnight song

  5. This is so beautiful, Natalie.

  6. You should check out the video for the song You are More by Tenth Avenue North. It is amazing!! Totally fits the midnight thing you were talking about. :)

  7. This was exactly what I needed to read tonight, Natalie. Thank you for writing it.

  8. i so needed this right now. thank you.


  9. This is such a good post just what someone I know and I need.. I think I will send them a link. My name is Natalie to, I have not found very many people with that name. Haha. I will read everyday.

  10. Natalie, this is a beautiful post. I think this, in a way, is a midnight song of its own. After all, it takes courage to call for courage in others, to urge them forward into living intentionally, to recruit them for the fight against complacency.